SALT LAKE CITY -- House Speaker Becky Lockhart made a preliminary presentation on her massive effort to bring the latest in technology to every Utah student on Tuesday.
The Provo Republican and Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, the sponsor of the legislation that will implement her plan, appeared before the Legislature's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to give details on the plan and also start the process of finding the money to make the program happen.
"We are all technology immigrants around this table, our children are not. Our children are technology natives," Lockhart said. "We have to recognize that."
Lockhart and Gibson's vision is that in just a few years every Utah student will have a item of technology available to them, be it a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Their proposal also calls for training of teachers and administrators on how to best utilize the technology for the students.
Gibson gave the committee a few examples of what can be accomplished by having the new technology in Utah's classrooms. Gibson recently visited a school in Utah that is piloting this idea and spoke with a middle school student who said they are more organized now that they are using an electronic device.
The student also told Gibson that her education was improving as she was able to get help from a teacher through an instant message on the device. Gibson said the student told him she was too shy to ask for help but since she could do it electronically, she was able to get the help she needed.
Gibson explained to the committee that his and Lockhart's goal with this proposal was to increase attendance, improve test scores and bring up graduation rates.
Lockhart spoke to the committee about the key factor that will hamper her idea from coming to fruition -- the money to pay for the plan. Estimates for the program have been placed around $200 million to $300 million. Gibson said $50 million would be needed to bring schools' infrastructures up to date for implementation of the devices.
Lockhart told the committee that it was clear to her that the funding could not all be met in one year of budget making, but said the lawmakers could commit to start the process.
She stated there could be no sacred cows as they look to fund the program and said money from the education budget, the transportation budget and the general fund should all be on the table to figure out how to bring the high-tech revolution to Utah's schools.
"We have to be willing to take a hard look at everything," Lockhart said.
Gibson and Lockhart are still working on negotiations with the Senate and state educators on what the final details of their plan will look like. They both have said they expect to have a bill available for the public to review on the matter by the end of the week.